As the flakes begin to fall, it’s not unreasonable to dream of the slopes in places like Telluride and Steamboat Springs. Sure, the ski resorts started opening in October, but the snow really starts flying in December. No more of that manmade powder – in December, the real stuff begins dumping on the Rocky Mountains and the resorts will finally be hitting their mid-season stride.
In celebration, lets reflect on what makes Colorado such an amazing place to ski and snowboard with 10 facts about skiing and snowboarding in Colorado.
A Means of Transport - Skiing emerged in Colorado out of necessity. When Colorado was still a frontier for those seeking gold riches in the mountains, their horses and wagons proved no match for the deep powder and the legendary steeps that Colorado is known for today. Instead, Scandinavian immigrants brought over their skis and they quickly caught on as a way to move quickly through the snow.
Mountain Men – During World War II, 14,000 US soldiers trained in Colorado at Camp Hale as part of the 10th Mountain Division, a special unit of the United States armed forces. Soldiers from the division were trained in high altitude, low temperature combat on skis and snowshoes on the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. After seeing combat action in the mountains of Italy, members from the 10th Mountain Division went on to found resorts such as Aspen and Vail.
photo credit Ryan Holst
Ski Run Ruins – Colorado has been home to over 145 ski areas that have since shut their lifts down for good (if they ever had them to begin with). Today, many of these runs (such as Berthoud Pass) are popular for back country skiiers.
Modern Variety – Colorado is still home to 28 ski resorts ranging from the uber-popular mountains like Breckenridge and Keystone to the smaller, independent operations like Monarch and Granby Ranch.
The Roof of America – The highest summit of any ski resort in North America is at Arapahoe Basin at 13,050 feet.
You Don’t Need Snow to Ski – Woodward at Copper is a training facility at Copper Mountain that offers an indoor barn for skiiers and riders to perfect their jumps, flips, twists, and turns on a series of ramps, tracks, mats, and spring floors, complete with two massive foam pits for safe landings.
Creating an Olympic Heritage – Despite being the only place to ever actually turn down the Olympic Games, Colorado has still been a hotbed of Olympic activity, producing 133 winter Olympicans. Steamboat Springs alone has produced 37 winter olympians, more than any other city in North America.
A Feat of Engineering – The Eisenhower Tunnel opened in 1973, boring 1.7 miles through the Rocky Mountains and under the Continental divide, providing quicker and safer access to the ski resorts of Summit and Eagle counties.
Dining High – At 11,966 feet on the mountain of Telluride and accessible only by gondola, the restaurant Alpino Vino bills itself as the highest restaurant in North America (with prices to match).
An Odd Name – Until renaming itself after the nearby town of Durango a couple years back, the Durango Mountain Resort was known simply as ‘Purgatory’. Not named after the afterlife destination, but rather the Purgatory Creek which runs through the resort.